Monday, January 4, 2016

Chevrolet's HHR Retromobile

Aside from the need to pay attention to aerodynamic efficiency and the effects of improved metal stamping, glass-forming, and other technologies related to car body shaping, there has been little in the way of styling evolution since around 1950 (see my book dealing with this).  Shapes of automobiles are essentially a matter of style.  For that reason "retro" designs -- that recall style details from several decades earlier -- do not bother me much.  Or at all, provided the result looks interesting or even good.

This post deals with the retro Chevrolet HHR (model years 2006-2011).  A Wikipedia entry provides some background information including that its styling can be attributed to Bryan Nesbitt, who also had a hand in styling the Chrysler PT Cruiser.

As best I can tell, the PT Cruiser, a sales success with more than one million sold, inspired General Motors to launch the HHR.  However, the HHR was only a moderate marketplace success with sales less than half those of the PT Cruiser.

Styling was inspired by "Advance Design" Chevrolet trucks from the late 1940s and early 50s, though the HHR was in no way a copy.


This is a PT Cruiser.  Not related to any historical design, but evoking customized hot rods derived from mid-1930s sedans with lowered front springs.  Chrysler's styling chief Tom Gale was a hot rod fan, which probably helped the Cruiser to reach production.  Very cute and very popular.  A number were assembled for the European market.

The Chevrolet HHR.  A scaled-down station wagon with truck-like styling cues such as the grille and heavy bumpers.  Not as cute as the Cruiser and lacking the PT's emotional impact.

1950 Chevrolet 3100 pickup truck.  The part from the cowling forward served as inspiration for HHR front end styling.  (Barrett-Jackson auction photo.)

Rear view of an HHR.  The license plate looks Belgian, though this is a factory promotional vehicle.

An HHR panel truck style.  Apparently HHRs were considered to have commercial appeal and some indeed were used in that capacity.

Publicity photo of an HHR as a recreational vehicle.  The only HHR I ever drove was on the Hawaiian island of Maui.  I didn't do water sports there, and the car seemed under-powered.

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